Secret Intelligence Service
Overview
The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) is responsible for supplying the British Government
Government of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Government is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Government is led by the Prime Minister, who selects all the remaining Ministers...

 with foreign intelligence
Intelligence agency
An intelligence agency is a governmental agency that is devoted to information gathering for purposes of national security and defence. Means of information gathering may include espionage, communication interception, cryptanalysis, cooperation with other institutions, and evaluation of public...

. Alongside the internal Security Service
MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

 (MI5), the Government Communications Headquarters
Government Communications Headquarters
The Government Communications Headquarters is a British intelligence agency responsible for providing signals intelligence and information assurance to the UK government and armed forces...

 (GCHQ) and the Defence Intelligence (DI), it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

It is frequently referred to in the mass media and popular parlance by the name MI6, a name used as a flag of convenience during the Second World War when it was known by many names.
Encyclopedia
The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) is responsible for supplying the British Government
Government of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Government is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Government is led by the Prime Minister, who selects all the remaining Ministers...

 with foreign intelligence
Intelligence agency
An intelligence agency is a governmental agency that is devoted to information gathering for purposes of national security and defence. Means of information gathering may include espionage, communication interception, cryptanalysis, cooperation with other institutions, and evaluation of public...

. Alongside the internal Security Service
MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

 (MI5), the Government Communications Headquarters
Government Communications Headquarters
The Government Communications Headquarters is a British intelligence agency responsible for providing signals intelligence and information assurance to the UK government and armed forces...

 (GCHQ) and the Defence Intelligence (DI), it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

It is frequently referred to in the mass media and popular parlance by the name MI6, a name used as a flag of convenience during the Second World War when it was known by many names. The existence of MI6 was not officially acknowledged in public until 1994.

In late 2010, the head of SIS delivered what he said was the first public address by a serving chief of the agency in its 101-year history. The remarks of Sir John Sawers
John Sawers
Sir Robert John Sawers, KCMG is a British diplomat and senior civil servant. He is the current Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service...

 primarily focused on the relationship between the need for secrecy and the goal of maintaining security within Britain. His remarks acknowledged the tensions caused by secrecy in an era of leaks and pressure for ever-greater disclosure.

SIS is referred to colloquially within the Civil Service as Box 850, after its old MI6 post office box number. Its headquarters
SIS Building
The SIS Building, also commonly known as the MI6 Building, is the headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service . It is known within the intelligence community as Legoland and also as "Babylon-on-Thames" due to its resemblance to an ancient Babylonian ziggurat...

, since 1995, are at Vauxhall Cross on the South Bank of the Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

.

Foundation

The service is derived from the Secret Service Bureau, which was founded in 1909. The Bureau was a joint initiative of the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 and the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 to control secret intelligence operations in the UK and overseas, particularly concentrating on the activities of the Imperial German Government. The bureau was split into naval and army sections which, over time, specialised in foreign espionage and internal counter-espionage activities respectively. This specialisation was because the Admiralty wanted to know the maritime strength of the Imperial German Navy. This specialisation was formalised before 1914. When the First World War started, the two sections underwent administrative changes so that the foreign section became the Directorate of Military Intelligence
Directorate of Military Intelligence
The Directorate of Military Intelligence was a department of the British War Office.Over its lifetime the Directorate underwent a number of organisational changes, absorbing and shedding sections over time.- History :...

 Section 6 (MI6), the name by which it is frequently known in popular culture today.

Its first director was Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming
Mansfield Smith-Cumming
Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, KCMG, CB was the first director of what would become the Secret Intelligence Service , also known as MI6...

, who often dropped the Smith in routine communication. He typically signed correspondence with his initial C in green ink. This usage evolved as a code name
Code name
A code name or cryptonym is a word or name used clandestinely to refer to another name or word. Code names are often used for military purposes, or in espionage...

, and has been adhered to by all subsequent directors of SIS when signing documents to retain anonymity.

First World War

The service's performance during First World War was mixed, because it was unable to establish a network in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 itself. The majority of its results came from military and commercial intelligence collected through networks in neutral countries, occupied territories, and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

.

Inter-War period

After the war, resources were significantly reduced. Circulating Sections were introduced to give greater control on its objectives to its consumer departments, mainly the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 and Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

. The Circulating Sections established intelligence requirements for the operational Group sections to fulfill and passed the intelligence back to the consumers. This relationship was termed the 1921 arrangement and still provides the basis for the internal structure of the agency.

During the 1920s, SIS established a close operational relationship with the diplomatic service. It established the post of Passport Control Officer within embassies, based on a system developed during World War I by British Army Intelligence. This provided operatives with a degree of cover and diplomatic immunity
Diplomatic immunity
Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity and a policy held between governments that ensures that diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country's laws...

 but had become compromised by the 1930s Venlo Incident
Venlo Incident
The Venlo Incident was a covert German Sicherheitsdienst engineered capture of two British SIS agents on 9 November 1939....

.

The debate over the future structure of British Intelligence continued at length after the end of hostilities but Cumming
Mansfield Smith-Cumming
Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, KCMG, CB was the first director of what would become the Secret Intelligence Service , also known as MI6...

 managed to engineer the return of the Service to Foreign Office control. At this time, the organisation was known in Whitehall by a variety of titles including the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Secret Service, MI1(c), the Special Intelligence Service and even C's organisation. Around 1920, it began increasingly to be referred to as the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), a title that it has continued to use to the present day and which was enshrined in statute in the Intelligence Services Act 1994.

In the immediate post-war years under Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming
Mansfield Smith-Cumming
Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, KCMG, CB was the first director of what would become the Secret Intelligence Service , also known as MI6...

 and throughout most of the 1920s, the SIS was focused on Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

, in particular, Russian Bolshevism. Examples include a thwarted operation to overthrow the Bolshevik government
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 in 1918 by SIS agents Sidney George Reilly
Sidney Reilly
Lieutenant Sidney George Reilly, MC , famously known as the Ace of Spies, was a Jewish Russian-born adventurer and secret agent employed by Scotland Yard, the British Secret Service Bureau and later the Secret Intelligence Service . He is alleged to have spied for at least four nations...

 and Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart
R. H. Bruce Lockhart
Sir Robert Hamilton Bruce Lockhart KCMG , was a journalist, author, secret agent, British diplomat in Moscow and Prague, and footballer...

, as well as more orthodox espionage efforts within early Soviet Russia headed by Captain George Hill.

Smith-Cumming died suddenly at his home on 14 June 1923, shortly before he was due to retire, and was replaced as C by Admiral Sir Hugh "Quex" Sinclair
Hugh Sinclair
Admiral Sir Hugh Francis Paget Sinclair KCB , nicknamed "Quex", was a British intelligence officer. Between 1919 and 1921, he was Director of British Naval Intelligence, and helped to set up the Secret Intelligence Service before the Second World War.-Career:Sinclair joined the Royal Navy in the...

. While lacking the charisma of his predecessor, Sinclair had a clear vision for the future of the agency, which developed a range of new activities under his leadership, including creation of the following sections:
  • A central foreign counter-espionage Circulating Section, Section V, to liaise with the Security Service to collate counter-espionage
    Counter-Espionage
    -Cast:* Warren William as Michael Lanyard* Eric Blore as Jamison* Hillary Brooke as Pamela Hart* Thurston Hall as Insp. Crane* Fred Kelsey as Detective Wesley Dickens* Forrest Tucker as Anton Schugg* Matthew Boulton as Inspector J...

     reports from overseas stations.
  • An economic intelligence section, Section VII, to deal with trade, industrial and contraband.
  • A clandestine radio communications organisation, Section VIII, to communicate with operatives and agents overseas.
  • Section N to exploit the contents of foreign diplomatic bag
    Diplomatic bag
    A diplomatic bag, also known as a diplomatic pouch is a kind of receptacle used by diplomatic missions. The physical concept of a "diplomatic bag" is flexible and therefore can take many forms e.g. an envelope, parcel, large suitcase or shipping container, etc...

    s
  • Section D to conduct political covert actions and paramilitary
    Paramilitary
    A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

     operations in time of war. Section D would come to be the foundation of the Special Operations Executive
    Special Operations Executive
    The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

     (SOE) during the Second World War.


With the emergence of Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 as a threat following the ascendence of the Nazis, in the early 1930s attention was shifted in that direction. Whilst the service acquired several reliable sources within the Government and the German Admiralty, its information was less comprehensive than that provided by the diplomatic network of Robert Vansittart, the Permanent Undersecretary at the Foreign Office.

Sinclair died in 1939, after an illness, and was replaced as C by Lt Col. Stewart Menzies
Stewart Menzies
Major General Sir Stewart Graham Menzies, KCB, KCMG, DSO, MC was Chief of MI6 , British Secret Intelligence Service, during and after World War II.-Early life, family:...

 (Horse Guards), who had been with the service since the end of World War I.

Second World War

During the Second World War the human intelligence
HUMINT
HUMINT, a syllabic abbreviation of the words HUMan INTelligence, refers to intelligence gathering by means of interpersonal contact, as opposed to the more technical intelligence gathering disciplines such as SIGINT, IMINT and MASINT...

 work of the service was overshadowed by several other initiatives:
  • The cryptanalytic
    Cryptanalysis
    Cryptanalysis is the study of methods for obtaining the meaning of encrypted information, without access to the secret information that is normally required to do so. Typically, this involves knowing how the system works and finding a secret key...

     effort undertaken by the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), the bureau responsible for interception and decryption of foreign communications at Bletchley Park
    Bletchley Park
    Bletchley Park is an estate located in the town of Bletchley, in Buckinghamshire, England, which currently houses the National Museum of Computing...

    .
  • The extensive "double-cross" system run by MI5
    MI5
    The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

     to feed misleading intelligence to the Germans
    Nazi Germany
    Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

  • Imagery intelligence
    IMINT
    Imagery Intelligence , is an intelligence gathering discipline which collects information via satellite and aerial photography. As a means of collecting intelligence, IMINT is a subset of intelligence collection management, which, in turn, is a subset of intelligence cycle management...

     activities conducted by the RAF Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (now JARIC
    JARIC
    JARIC - The National Imagery Exploitation Centre, part of the Intelligence Collection Group within United Kingdom Defence Intelligence, is an imagery analysis and intelligence centre based at RAF Brampton near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, and historically known as MI4, by which name it is still...

    , The National Imagery Exploitation Centre).


GC&CS was the source of Ultra intelligence, which was very useful.

The most significant failure of the service during the war was known as the Venlo incident
Venlo Incident
The Venlo Incident was a covert German Sicherheitsdienst engineered capture of two British SIS agents on 9 November 1939....

, named for the Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 town where much of the operation took place. Agents of the German army secret service, the Abwehr
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

, and the Counter-Espionage section of the Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

(SD), posed as high-ranking officers involved in a plot to depose Hitler. In a series of meetings between SIS agents and the 'conspirators', SS
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 plans to abduct the SIS team were shelved due to the presence of Dutch police. On the night of 8–9 November 1939, a meeting took place without police presence. There, the two SIS agents were duly abducted by the SS.

In 1940, journalist and Soviet agent Kim Philby
Kim Philby
Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a spy for and later defected to the Soviet Union...

 applied for a vacancy in Section D of SIS, and was vetted by his friend and fellow Soviet agent Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess
Guy Francis De Moncy Burgess was a British-born intelligence officer and double agent, who worked for the Soviet Union. He was part of the Cambridge Five spy ring that betrayed Western secrets to the Soviets before and during the Cold War...

. When Section D was absorbed by Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

 (SOE) in summer of 1940, Philby was appointed as an instructor in the arts of "black propaganda
Black propaganda
Black propaganda is false information and material that purports to be from a source on one side of a conflict, but is actually from the opposing side. It is typically used to vilify, embarrass or misrepresent the enemy...

" at the SOE's training establishment in Beaulieu, Hampshire
Beaulieu, Hampshire
Beaulieu is a small village located on the south eastern edge of the New Forest national park in Hampshire, England and home to both Palace House and the British National Motor Museum.- History :...

.

SOE operations were overtly offensive in the occupied countries, which clashed with the more discreet approach of SIS, leading to a significant level of friction and increased risk to SIS operatives. The increased security in the occupied territories as a result of SOE activity, significantly reduced freedom of movement for SIS operatives and so curtailed operations.

In early 1944 MI6 re-established Section IX, its prewar anti-Soviet section, and Kim Philby
Kim Philby
Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a spy for and later defected to the Soviet Union...

 took a position there. He was able to alert the NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 about all British intelligence on the Soviets—including what the American OSS
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

 had shared with the British about the Soviets.

Despite these difficulties the service nevertheless conducted substantial and successful operations in both occupied Europe and in the Middle East and Far East where it operated under the cover name Interservice Liaison Department (ISLD).

Cold War

In August 1945 Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Volkov
Konstantin Volkov (diplomat)
Konstantin Volkov was an NKVD agent and would-be defector.-Approach:In early September 1945 Konstantin Volkov, Vice Consul for the Soviet Union in Istanbul, Turkey, turned up at the British Consulate General and told an astonished British Official that he wanted to defect...

 tried to defect to Britain, offering the names of all Soviet agents working inside British intelligence. Philby received the memo on Volkov's offer, and alerted the Soviets so they could arrest him.

In 1946, SIS absorbed the "rump" remnant of the Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

 (SOE), dispersing the latter's personnel and equipment between its operational divisions or "controllerates" and new Directorates for Training and Development and for War Planning. The 1921 arrangement was streamlined with the geographical, operational units redesignated "Production Sections", sorted regionally under Controllers, all under a Director of Production. The Circulating Sections were renamed "Requirements Sections" and placed under a Directorate of Requirements.

SIS operations against the USSR
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 were extensively compromised by the fact that the post-war Counter-Espionage Section, R5, was headed for two years by an agent working for the Soviet Union, Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby
Kim Philby
Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a spy for and later defected to the Soviet Union...

. Although Philby's damage was mitigated for several years by his transfer as Head of Station in Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, he later returned and was the SIS intelligence liaison officer at the Embassy in Washington D.C. In this capacity he compromised a programme of joint U.S.-UK paramilitary operations (Albanian Subversion
Albanian Subversion
The Albanian Subversion is one of the earliest and most notable failures of the Western covert paramilitary operations behind the Iron Curtain. Based on wrong assessments about Albania, and thinking that the country was ready to shake off its Stalinist regime, the British SIS and the American CIA...

, Valuable Project) in Enver Hoxha
Enver Hoxha
Enver Halil Hoxha was a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary andthe leader of Albania from the end of World War II until his death in 1985, as the First Secretary of the Party of Labour of Albania...

's Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 (although it has been shown that these operations were further compromised "on the ground" by poor security discipline amongst the Albanian émigré
Émigré
Émigré is a French term that literally refers to a person who has "migrated out", but often carries a connotation of politico-social self-exile....

s recruited to undertake the operations). Philby was eased out of office and quietly retired in 1953 after the defection of his friends and fellow members of the "Cambridge spy ring
Cambridge Five
The Cambridge Five was a ring of spies, recruited in part by Russian talent spotter Arnold Deutsch in the United Kingdom, who passed information to the Soviet Union during World War II and at least into the early 1950s...

" Donald Duart Maclean
Donald Duart Maclean
Donald Duart Maclean was a British diplomat and member of the Cambridge Five who were members of MI5, MI6 or the diplomatic service who acted as spies for the Soviet Union in the Second World War and beyond. He was recruited as a "straight penetration agent" while an undergraduate at Cambridge by...

 and Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess
Guy Francis De Moncy Burgess was a British-born intelligence officer and double agent, who worked for the Soviet Union. He was part of the Cambridge Five spy ring that betrayed Western secrets to the Soviets before and during the Cold War...

.

SIS suffered further embarrassment when it turned out that an officer involved in both the Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 and Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 tunnel operations had been turned as a Soviet agent during internment by the Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. This agent, George Blake
George Blake
George Blake is a former British spy known for having been a double agent in the service of the Soviet Union. Discovered in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1966 and fled to the USSR...

, returned from his internment to be treated as something of a hero by his contemporaries in "the office". His security authorisation was restored, and in 1953 he was posted to the Vienna Station where the original Vienna tunnels had been running for years. After compromising these to his Soviet controllers, he was subsequently assigned to the British team involved on Operation Gold
Operation Gold
Operation Gold was a joint operation conducted by the American CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service in the 1950s to tap into landline communication of the Soviet Army headquarters in Berlin using a tunnel into the Soviet-occupied zone...

, the Berlin tunnel, and which was, consequently, blown from the outset. In 1956 MI6 Director John Alexander Sinclair
John Alexander Sinclair
Sir John Alexander Sinclair, KCMG, CB, OBE was Head of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1953 to 1956.-Career:Sinclair was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps. In 1938 he was appointed an Instructor at the Staff College, Camberley...

 had to resign after the botched affair of the death of Lionel Crabb
Lionel Crabb
Lionel "Buster" Crabb OBE, GM was a British Royal Navy frogman and MI6 diver who vanished during a reconnaissance mission around a Soviet cruiser in 1956.-Early life:...

.

Despite these setbacks, SIS began to recover as a result of improved vetting and security, and a series of successful penetrations. From 1958, SIS had three moles in the Polish UB
Ministry of Public Security of Poland
The Ministry of Public Security of Poland was a Polish communist secret police, intelligence and counter-espionage service operating from 1945 to 1954 under Jakub Berman of the Politburo...

, the most successful of which was codenamed NODDY. The CIA described the information SIS received from these Poles as "some of the most valuable intelligence ever collected", and rewarded SIS with $20 million to expand their Polish operation. In 1961 Polish defector Michael Goleniewski
Michael Goleniewski
Michael Goleniewski a.k.a. 'SNIPER', 'LAVINIA', , was a Polish officer in the People's Republic of Poland's Ministry Of Public Security, the deputy head of military counterintelligence GZI WP, later head of the technical and scientific section of the Polish intelligence,and a spy for the Soviet...

 exposed George Blake
George Blake
George Blake is a former British spy known for having been a double agent in the service of the Soviet Union. Discovered in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1966 and fled to the USSR...

 as a Soviet agent. Blake was identified, arrested, tried for espionage and sent to prison. He escaped and was exfiltrated to the USSR in 1964.

Also, in the GRU
GRU
GRU or Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye is the foreign military intelligence directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation...

, they recruited Colonel Oleg Penkovsky
Oleg Penkovsky
Oleg Vladimirovich Penkovsky, codenamed HERO ; April 23, 1919, Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, Soviet Russia, – May 16, 1963, Soviet Union), was a colonel with Soviet military intelligence in the late 1950s and early 1960s who informed the United Kingdom and the United States about the Soviet Union...

. Penkovsky ran for two years as a considerable success, providing several thousand photographed documents, including Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 rocketry manuals that allowed U.S. National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) analysts to recognise the deployment pattern of Soviet SS4 MRBMs
Medium-range ballistic missile
A medium-range ballistic missile , is a type of ballistic missile with medium range, this last classification depending on the standards of certain organizations. Within the U.S. Department of Defense, a medium range missile is defined by having a maximum range of between 1,000 and 3,000 km1...

 and SS5 IRBMs
Intermediate-range ballistic missile
An intermediate-range ballistic missile is a ballistic missile with a range of 3,000–5,500 km , between a medium-range ballistic missile and an intercontinental ballistic missile...

 in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 in October 1962. SIS operations against the USSR continued to gain pace through the remainder of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, arguably peaking with the recruitment in the 1970s of Oleg Gordievsky
Oleg Gordievsky
Oleg Antonovich Gordievsky , CMG , is a former Colonel of the KGB and KGB Resident-designate and bureau chief in London, who was a secret agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 1974 to 1985.-Early career:Oleg Gordievsky attended the Moscow State Institute of International...

 whom SIS ran for the better part of a decade, then successfully exfiltrated from the USSR across the Finnish
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 border in 1985.

The real scale and impact of SIS activities during the second half of the Cold War remains unknown, however, because the bulk of their most successful targeting operations against Soviet officials were the result of "Third Country" operations recruiting Soviet sources travelling abroad in Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. These included the defection to the SIS Tehran
Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

 Station in 1982 of KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 officer Vladimir Kuzichkin
Vladimir Kuzichkin
Vladimir Anatoljevich Kuzichkin Владимир Анатольевич Кузичкин now 61. He was a Soviet KGB officer, major who defected to the Tehran Station of the British Secret Intelligence Service in 1982...

, the son of a senior Politburo
Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 member and a member of the KGB's internal Second Chief Directorate who provided SIS and the British government
Government of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Government is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Government is led by the Prime Minister, who selects all the remaining Ministers...

 with warning of the mobilisation of the KGB's Alpha Force during the 1991 August Coup
Soviet coup attempt of 1991
The 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt , also known as the August Putsch or August Coup , was an attempt by a group of members of the Soviet Union's government to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev...

 which briefly toppled Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

.

SIS activities allegedly included a range of covert political action successes, including the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadeq in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 in 1953 (in collaboration with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

), the again collaborative toppling of Patrice Lumumba
Patrice Lumumba
Patrice Émery Lumumba was a Congolese independence leader and the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo after he helped win its independence from Belgium in June 1960. Only ten weeks later, Lumumba's government was deposed in a coup during the Congo Crisis...

 in the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

 in 1961, and the triggering of an internal conflict between Lebanese
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 paramilitary groups in the second half of the 1980s that effectively distracted them from further hostage takings of Westerners in the region.

A number of intelligence operatives have left SIS. Usually they have found new employment in the civilian world. In the late 1990s, an SIS officer called Richard Tomlinson
Richard Tomlinson
Richard Tomlinson is a New Zealand-born British former MI6 officer who was imprisoned during 1997 for violating the Official Secrets Act 1989 by giving the synopsis of a proposed book detailing his career in the Secret Intelligence Service to an Australian publisher...

 was dismissed and later wrote a story of his experiences entitled The Big Breach.

After the Cold War

The end of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 led to a reshuffle of existing priorities. The Soviet Bloc ceased to swallow the lion's share of operational priorities, although the stability and intentions of a weakened but still nuclear-capable Federal Russia constituted a significant concern. Instead, functional rather than geographical intelligence requirements came to the fore such as counter-proliferation
Counter-proliferation
Counter-proliferation refers to diplomatic, intelligence, and military efforts to combat the proliferation of weapons, including both conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction...

 (via the agency's Production and Targeting, Counter-Proliferation Section) which had been a sphere of activity since the discovery of Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

i physics students studying nuclear-weapons related subjects in 1974; counter-terrorism (via two joint sections run in collaboration with the Security Service, one for Irish republicanism
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 and one for international terrorism); counter-narcotics and serious crime (originally set up under the Western Hemisphere
Western Hemisphere
The Western Hemisphere or western hemisphere is mainly used as a geographical term for the half of the Earth that lies west of the Prime Meridian and east of the Antimeridian , the other half being called the Eastern Hemisphere.In this sense, the western hemisphere consists of the western portions...

 Controllerate in 1989); and a 'global issues' section looking at matters such as the environment and other public welfare issues, and this post was appointed to Davey Fontan, a former young MI6 operative known to use his youthfulness and his employment at Great Ormond Street Hospital
Great Ormond Street Hospital
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children is a children's hospital located in London, United Kingdom...

 as the perfect cover for underground national surveillance. In the mid-1990s these were consolidated into a new post of Controller, Global and Functional.

During the transition, then-C Sir Colin McColl
Colin McColl
Sir Colin Hugh Verel McColl, KCMG was Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 1989 to 1994.-Career:Educated at Shrewsbury School and at Queen's College, Oxford, McColl joined the diplomatic service in 1950...

 embraced a new, albeit limited, policy of openness towards the press and public, with 'public affairs' falling into the brief of Director, Counter-Intelligence and Security (renamed Director, Security and Public Affairs). McColl's policies were part and parcel with a wider 'open government initiative' developed from 1993 by the government of John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

. As part of this, SIS operations, and those of the national signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, were placed on a statutory footing through the 1994 Intelligence Services Act. Although the Act provided procedures for Authorisations and Warrants, this essentially enshrined mechanisms that had been in place at least since 1953 (for Authorisations) and 1985 (under the Interception of Communications Act
Interception of Communications Act 1985
The Interception of Communications Act 1985 was an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom. It came into operation as of April 10, 1986....

, for warrants). Under this Act, since 1994, SIS and GCHQ activities have been subject to scrutiny by Parliament's
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 Intelligence and Security Committee
Intelligence and Security Committee
The Intelligence and Security Committee is a committee of parliamentarians appointed by the Prime Minister to oversee the work of the Intelligence machinery of the United Kingdom...

.

During the mid-1990s the British intelligence community was subjected to a comprehensive costing review by the Government. As part of broader defence cut-backs SIS had its resources cut back 25% across the board and senior management was reduced by 40%. As a consequence of these cuts, the Requirements division (formerly the Circulating Sections of the 1921 Arrangement) were deprived of any representation on the Board of Directors. At the same time, the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and Africa Controllerates were pared back and amalgamated. According to the findings of Lord Butler of Brockwell's Review of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the reduction of operational capabilities in the Middle East and of the Requirements division's ability to challenge the quality of the information the Middle East Controllerate was providing weakened the Joint Intelligence Committee's estimates of Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

's nonconventional weapons programmes. These weaknesses were major contributors to the UK's erroneous assessments of Iraq's 'weapons of mass destruction' prior to the 2003 invasion of that country. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks
September 11, 2001 attacks
The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...

 funding was increased.

In the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it is alleged, although not confirmed, that some MI6 conducted Operation Mass Appeal which was a campaign to plant stories about Iraq's WMDs in the media. The operation was exposed in the Sunday Times in December 2003. Claims by former weapons inspector Scott Ritter
Scott Ritter
William Scott Ritter, Jr. was an important United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, and later a critic of United States foreign policy in the Middle East. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Ritter stated that Iraq possessed no significant weapons of mass...

 suggest that similar propaganda campaigns against Iraq date back well into the 1990s. Ritter claims that MI6 recruited him in 1997 to help with the propaganda effort. "The aim was to convince the public that Iraq was a far greater threat than it actually was"—Scott Ritter, Sunday Times, December 28, 2003.

On 6 May 2004 it was announced that Sir Richard Dearlove
Richard Dearlove
Sir Richard Billing Dearlove, KCMG, OBE was head of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 1999 until 6 May 2004.-Career:...

 was to be replaced as head of the SIS by John Scarlett
John Scarlett
Sir John McLeod Scarlett, KCMG, OBE was Director General of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 2004 to 2009...

, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee
UK Joint Intelligence Committee
The Joint Intelligence Committee is the part of the British Cabinet Office responsible for directing the national intelligence organisations of the United Kingdom on behalf of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom and providing advice to the Cabinet related to security, defence and foreign affairs...

. Scarlett was an unusually high-profile appointment to the job, and gave evidence at the Hutton Inquiry
Hutton Inquiry
The Hutton Inquiry was a 2003 judicial inquiry in the UK chaired by Lord Hutton, who was appointed by the Labour government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly, a biological warfare expert and former UN weapons inspector in Iraq.On 18 July 2003, Kelly, an employee...

.

On 15 November 2006, MI6 allowed an interview with current operations officers for the first time. The interview was on the Colin Murray
Colin Murray
Colin Murray is a Northern Irish sports and music radio and television presenter. He is the current host of the BBC Television show Match of the Day 2 on BBC Two, and the BBC Radio 5 Live shows 5 Live Sport and Fighting Talk, as well as a show on BBC Radio Ulster. He has previously hosted regular...

 show
on BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 1 is a British national radio station operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation which also broadcasts internationally, specialising in current popular music and chart hits throughout the day. Radio 1 provides alternative genres after 7:00pm including electronic dance, hip hop, rock...

. The two officers (one male and one female) had their voices disguised for security reasons. The officers compared their real experience with the fictional portrayal of MI6 in the James Bond films. While denying that there ever existed a "licence to kill
Licence to kill (concept)
Licence to kill is a literary device used in espionage fiction. It refers to the official sanction by a government or government agency to a particular operative or employee to initiate the use of lethal force in the delivery of their objectives...

" and reiterating that MI6 operated under British law, the officers confirmed that there is a 'Q
Q (James Bond)
Q is a fictional character in the James Bond novels and films. Q , like M, is a job title rather than a name. He is the head of Q Branch , the fictional research and development division of the British Secret Service...

'-like figure who is head of the technology department, and that their director is referred to as 'C'. The officers described the lifestyle as quite glamorous and very varied, with plenty of overseas travel and adventure, and described their role primarily as intelligence gatherers, developing relationships with potential sources. The interview is seen largely as a public relations and employment tactic, following the placement of advertising for applicants on the agency's website for the first time in April 2006.

Sir John Sawers
John Sawers
Sir Robert John Sawers, KCMG is a British diplomat and senior civil servant. He is the current Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service...

 became head of the SIS in November 2009, the first outsider to head MI6 in more than 40 years. Sawers came from the Diplomatic Service, previously having been the British Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

During the global war on terror, MI6 accepted information from the CIA that was obtained through torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

, including the extraordinary rendition program. Craig Murray
Craig Murray
Craig John Murray is a British political activist, former ambassador to Uzbekistan and former Rector of the University of Dundee....

, a UK ambassador to Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

, had written several memos critical of the UK's accepting this information; he was then fired from his job.

On June 7 2011, John Sawers received Romania's President Traian Basescu and George-Cristian Malor, the head of the Serviciul Roman de Informatii (SRI) at SIS headquarters. John Sawers also told members of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee in July 2011 that he is planning to visit China every year to meet his Chinese counterparts.

In July 2011 it was reported that SIS has closed several of its stations in the past couple of years, particularly in Iraq, where it used to have several outposts in the south of the country in the region of Basra according to the annual report of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. The closures have allowed the service to focus its attention on Pakistan and Afghanistan, which are its principal stations. On November 16, 2011 MI6 warned the national transitional council in Benghazi after discovering details of planned strikes, said foreign secretary William Hague. ‘The agencies obtained firm intelligence, were able to warn the NTC of the threat, and the attacks were prevented,’ he said. In a rare speech on the intelligence agencies, he praised the key role played by MI6 and GCHQ in bringing Gaddafi’s 42-year dictatorship to an end, describing them as ‘vital assets’ with a ‘fundamental and indispensable role’ in keeping the nation safe. ‘They worked to identify key political figures, develop contacts with the emerging opposition and provide political and military intelligence. ‘Most importantly, they saved lives,’ he said. The speech follows criticism that MI6 had been too close to the Libyan regime and was involved in the extraordinary rendition of anti-Gaddafi activists. Mr Hague also defended controversial proposals for secrecy in civil court involving intelligence material.

It's reported by the Daily Star that MI-6 helped capture Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The top-secret mission, dubbed Operation X so it gave away no clues, used the latest hi-tech ELINT electronic intelligence gadgets to bug him along with friends and family. Gaddafi had been hiding out in the desert for a month but the breakthrough came when he made two calls, one after the other, to say he was safe. It allowed the joint British and French bugging operation to pinpoint where he was. MI6 agents using the £25million top-secret equipment closed in on him before calling in the Libyan snatch squad. A British security source said: “He made a mistake and we were waiting for him. “When someone drops out of sight they cannot resist the urge to ring someone and say they are OK. “We knew what kit he had and all the phones he had. “Saif was targeted by us but it was vital the Libyans were the ones to capture him.

SIS headquarters

Since 1995, SIS headquarters
SIS Building
The SIS Building, also commonly known as the MI6 Building, is the headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service . It is known within the intelligence community as Legoland and also as "Babylon-on-Thames" due to its resemblance to an ancient Babylonian ziggurat...

 has been at 85 Vauxhall Cross, along the Albert Embankment
Albert Embankment
The Albert Embankment is a stretch of the river bank on the south side of the River Thames in Central London. It stretches approximately one mile northward from Vauxhall Bridge to Westminster Bridge, and is located in the London Borough of Lambeth.Albert Embankment is also the name given to the...

 in Vauxhall
Vauxhall
-Demography:Many Vauxhall residents live in social housing. There are several gentrified areas, and areas of terraced townhouses on streets such as Fentiman Road and Heyford Avenue have higher property values in the private market, however by far the most common type of housing stock within...

 on the banks of the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 by Vauxhall Bridge
Vauxhall Bridge
Vauxhall Bridge is a Grade II* listed steel and granite deck arch bridge in central London. It crosses the River Thames in a south–east north–west direction between Vauxhall on the south bank and Pimlico on the north bank...

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. Previous headquarters have been Century House, 100 Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth
Lambeth
Lambeth is a district of south London, England, and part of the London Borough of Lambeth. It is situated southeast of Charing Cross.-Toponymy:...

 (1966–95); and 54, Broadway, off Victoria Street, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 (1924–66). (Although SIS operated from Broadway, it was actually based at St James's Street).

The building was designed by Sir Terry Farrell
Terry Farrell (architect)
Sir Terry Farrell, CBE, RIBA, FRSA, FCSD, MRTPI is a British architect.-Life and career:Farrell was born in Sale, Cheshire. As a youth he moved to Newcastle upon Tyne, where he attended St Cuthbert's High School. He graduated with a degree from Newcastle University, followed by a Masters in urban...

 and built by John Laing. The developer Regalian Properties approached the Government in 1987 to see if they had any interest in the proposed building. At the same time MI5 was seeking alternative accommodation and co-location of the two services was studied. In the end this proposal was abandoned due to the lack of buildings of adequate size (existing or proposed) and the security considerations of providing a single target for attacks. In July 1988 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

 approved the purchase of the new building for the SIS. At this stage the government proposed to pay for the building outright in order to maintain secrecy over the intended use of the site; at the time, the existence of MI6 was not officially acknowledged.

The building design was reviewed to incorporate the necessary protection for Britain's foreign intelligence gathering agency. This includes overall increased security, extensive computer suites, technical areas, bomb blast protection, emergency back-up systems and protection against electronic eavesdropping. While the details and cost of construction have been released, about ten years after the original National Audit Office
National Audit Office (United Kingdom)
The National Audit Office is an independent Parliamentary body in the United Kingdom which is responsible for auditing central government departments, government agencies and non-departmental public bodies...

 (NAO) report was written, some of the service's special requirements remain classified. The NAO report Thames House and Vauxhall Cross has certain details omitted, describing in detail the cost and problems of certain modifications but not what these are. Rob Humphrey's London: The Rough Guide suggests one of these omitted modifications is a tunnel beneath the Thames to Whitehall
Whitehall
Whitehall is a road in Westminster, in London, England. It is the main artery running north from Parliament Square, towards Charing Cross at the southern end of Trafalgar Square...

. The NAO put the final cost at £135.05m for site purchase and the basic building, or £152.6m including the service's special requirements.

The setting of the SIS offices were featured in the James Bond
James Bond
James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

 films GoldenEye
GoldenEye
GoldenEye is the seventeenth spy film in the James Bond series, and the first to star Pierce Brosnan as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The film was directed by Martin Campbell and is the first film in the series not to take story elements from the works of novelist Ian Fleming...

, The World Is Not Enough
The World Is Not Enough
The World Is Not Enough is the nineteenth spy film in the James Bond film series, and the third to star Pierce Brosnan as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The film was directed by Michael Apted, with the original story and screenplay written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein. It...

and Die Another Day
Die Another Day
Die Another Day is the 20th spy film in the James Bond series, and the fourth and last film to star Pierce Brosnan as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond; it is also the last Bond film of the original timeline with the series being rebooted with Casino Royale...

. MI6 allowed filming of the building itself for the first time in The World is Not Enough for the pre-credits sequence, where a bomb hidden in a briefcase full of money is exploded inside the building. A Daily Telegraph article claimed that the British government opposed the filming, but these claims were denied by a Foreign Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly called the Foreign Office or the FCO is a British government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom overseas, created in 1968 by merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office.The head of the FCO is the...

 spokesperson.

On the evening of 20 September 2000, the building was attacked using a Russian-built RPG-22
RPG-22
The Soviet RPG-22 Netto is a one-shot disposable anti-tank rocket launcher first deployed in 1985, based on the RPG-18 rocket launcher, but firing a larger 72.5 mm fin stabilised projectile. The weapon can be prepared to fire in around 10 seconds, and can penetrate 400 mm of armour, 1.2 meters of...

 anti-tank rocket. Striking the eighth floor, the missile caused only superficial damage. The Anti-Terrorist branch of the Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan Police Service
The Metropolitan Police Service is the territorial police force responsible for Greater London, excluding the "square mile" of the City of London which is the responsibility of the City of London Police...

 attributed responsibility to the Real IRA
Real Irish Republican Army
The Real Irish Republican Army, otherwise known as the Real IRA , and styling itself as Óglaigh na hÉireann , is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation which aims to bring about a united Ireland...

.

Chiefs of the SIS

  • 1909–1923: Sir Mansfield Smith-Cumming
    Mansfield Smith-Cumming
    Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, KCMG, CB was the first director of what would become the Secret Intelligence Service , also known as MI6...

    , KCMG, CB
  • 1923–1939: Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair
    Hugh Sinclair
    Admiral Sir Hugh Francis Paget Sinclair KCB , nicknamed "Quex", was a British intelligence officer. Between 1919 and 1921, he was Director of British Naval Intelligence, and helped to set up the Secret Intelligence Service before the Second World War.-Career:Sinclair joined the Royal Navy in the...

    , KCB
  • 1939–1952: Major General Sir Stewart Menzies
    Stewart Menzies
    Major General Sir Stewart Graham Menzies, KCB, KCMG, DSO, MC was Chief of MI6 , British Secret Intelligence Service, during and after World War II.-Early life, family:...

    , KCB, KCMG, DSO, MC
    Military Cross
    The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

  • 1953–1956: Sir John Alexander Sinclair
    John Alexander Sinclair
    Sir John Alexander Sinclair, KCMG, CB, OBE was Head of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1953 to 1956.-Career:Sinclair was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps. In 1938 he was appointed an Instructor at the Staff College, Camberley...

    , KCMG, CB, OBE
  • 1956–1968: Sir Richard White
    Dick White
    Sir Dick Goldsmith White, KCMG, KBE , was a British intelligence officer. He was Director-General of MI5 from 1953 to 1956, and Head of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1956 to 1968.-Career:...

    , KCMG, KBE
  • 1968–1973: Sir John Rennie, KCMG
  • 1973–1978: Sir Maurice Oldfield
    Maurice Oldfield
    Sir Maurice Oldfield GCMG, CBE , was a British intelligence officer and espionage administrator.-Early life:...

    , GCMG, CBE
  • 1979–1982: Sir Dick Franks
    Dick Franks
    Sir Arthur Temple "Dick" Franks KCMG was Head of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1979 to 1982.-Career:...

    , KCMG
  • 1982–1985: Sir Colin Figures
    Colin Figures
    Sir Colin Frederick Figures KCMG, OBE was Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 1981 to 1985. He was deputy secretary and Intelligence Co-ordinator of the Cabinet Office from 1985 to 1989....

    , KCMG, OBE
  • 1985–1989: Sir Christopher Curwen
    Christopher Curwen
    Sir Christopher Keith Curwen, KCMG was Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 1985 to 1989.-Career:Educated at Sherborne School and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Curwen was commissioned into the 4th Queen's Own Hussars in 1948...

    , KCMG
  • 1989–1994: Sir Colin McColl
    Colin McColl
    Sir Colin Hugh Verel McColl, KCMG was Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 1989 to 1994.-Career:Educated at Shrewsbury School and at Queen's College, Oxford, McColl joined the diplomatic service in 1950...

    , KCMG
  • 1994–1999: Sir David Spedding
    David Spedding
    Sir David Rolland Spedding KCMG, CVO, OBE was Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 1994 to 1999.-Career:Spedding was educated at Sherborne School and read history at Hertford College, Oxford...

    , KCMG, CVO, OBE
  • 1999–2004: Sir Richard Dearlove
    Richard Dearlove
    Sir Richard Billing Dearlove, KCMG, OBE was head of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 1999 until 6 May 2004.-Career:...

    , KCMG, OBE
  • 2004–2009: Sir John Scarlett
    John Scarlett
    Sir John McLeod Scarlett, KCMG, OBE was Director General of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 2004 to 2009...

    , KCMG, OBE
  • 2009–present: Sir John Sawers
    John Sawers
    Sir Robert John Sawers, KCMG is a British diplomat and senior civil servant. He is the current Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service...

    , KCMG

See also

  • List of intelligence agencies
  • Charles Cumming
    Charles Cumming
    Charles Cumming is a British writer of spy fiction. The son of Ian Cumming and Caroline Pilkington , he was educated at Ludgrove School , Eton College and the University of Edinburgh , where he graduated with 1st Class Honours in English Literature...

     author, former SIS officer
  • Richard Tomlinson
    Richard Tomlinson
    Richard Tomlinson is a New Zealand-born British former MI6 officer who was imprisoned during 1997 for violating the Official Secrets Act 1989 by giving the synopsis of a proposed book detailing his career in the Secret Intelligence Service to an Australian publisher...

     author, former SIS officer
  • Graham Greene
    Graham Greene
    Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...

     author, former SIS officer
  • David Cornwell
    John le Carré
    David John Moore Cornwell , who writes under the name John le Carré, is an author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Cornwell worked for MI5 and MI6, and began writing novels under the pseudonym "John le Carré"...

     (John le Carré
    John le Carré
    David John Moore Cornwell , who writes under the name John le Carré, is an author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and the 1960s, Cornwell worked for MI5 and MI6, and began writing novels under the pseudonym "John le Carré"...

    ) author, former SIS officer
  • Ian Fleming
    Ian Fleming
    Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer.Fleming is best known for creating the fictional British spy James Bond and for a series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character, one of the biggest-selling series of fictional books of...

     author, former NID
    Naval Intelligence Division
    The Naval Intelligence Division was the intelligence arm of the British Admiralty before the establishment of a unified Defence Staff in 1965. It dealt with matters concerning British naval plans, with the collection of naval intelligence...

     officer
  • Ralph Izzard
    Ralph Izzard
    Ralph William Burdick Izzard, OBE, was an English journalist, author, adventurer, and British Naval Intelligence officer ....

     journalist, author, former NID
    Naval Intelligence Division
    The Naval Intelligence Division was the intelligence arm of the British Admiralty before the establishment of a unified Defence Staff in 1965. It dealt with matters concerning British naval plans, with the collection of naval intelligence...

     officer
  • Krystyna Skarbek
    Krystyna Skarbek
    Krystyna Skarbek, GM, OBE, Croix de guerre was a Polish Special Operations Executive agent. She became celebrated especially for her daring exploits in intelligence and irregular-warfare missions in Nazi-occupied Poland and France....

     agent, friend of Ian Fleming, inspiration for Vesper Lynd
    Vesper Lynd
    Vesper Lynd is a fictional character featured in Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Casino Royale. The name is a pun on "West Berlin". It has been claimed that Fleming based Lynd on the real life Special Operations Executive agent Christine Granville. In the 1967 film of Casino Royale, she is played by...

  • Paul Dukes
    Paul Dukes
    Sir Paul Dukes KBE was a British author and MI6 officer.Born in Bridgwater, Somerset, the son of an Anglican clergyman, he was educated at Caterham School in England, and Petrograd Conservatoire in Russia....

    , SIS officer and author
  • Sidney Reilly
    Sidney Reilly
    Lieutenant Sidney George Reilly, MC , famously known as the Ace of Spies, was a Jewish Russian-born adventurer and secret agent employed by Scotland Yard, the British Secret Service Bureau and later the Secret Intelligence Service . He is alleged to have spied for at least four nations...

    , Ace of Spies, worked for SIS and others, Intelligence mentor of Sir Henry Osborne Oswald
  • James Bond
    James Bond
    James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

    , fictional agent
  • Horst Kopkow
    Horst Kopkow
    Horst Kopkow was a Nazi Germany SS major who worked for German Security police and, after the war, was concealed by British intelligence so that they could use his knowledge in the Cold War.During World War II, Kopkow served in German national security police headquarters in Berlin...

    , SS officer who worked for SIS post Second World War
  • Valentine Vivian
    Valentine Vivian
    Colonel Valentine Patrick Terrell Vivian CMG CBE was the vice-chief of the SIS or MI6 and was the first head of its counter-espionage unit, Section V...

     Vice-Chief of the SIS and head of counter-espionage
    Counter-Espionage
    -Cast:* Warren William as Michael Lanyard* Eric Blore as Jamison* Hillary Brooke as Pamela Hart* Thurston Hall as Insp. Crane* Fred Kelsey as Detective Wesley Dickens* Forrest Tucker as Anton Schugg* Matthew Boulton as Inspector J...

    , Section V
  • Kim Philby
    Kim Philby
    Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a spy for and later defected to the Soviet Union...

     (cryptonym: Stanley), SIS officer and Soviet agent
  • Donald Maclean (cryptonym: Homer), SIS officer and Soviet agent
  • Guy Burgess
    Guy Burgess
    Guy Francis De Moncy Burgess was a British-born intelligence officer and double agent, who worked for the Soviet Union. He was part of the Cambridge Five spy ring that betrayed Western secrets to the Soviets before and during the Cold War...

     (cryptonym: Hicks), SIS officer and Soviet agent
  • Anthony Blunt
    Anthony Blunt
    Anthony Frederick Blunt , was a British art historian who was exposed as a Soviet spy late in his life.Blunt was Professor of the History of Art at the University of London, director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Surveyor of the King's Pictures and London...

     (cryptonym: Johnson), MI5 officer and Soviet agent
  • John Cairncross
    John Cairncross
    John Cairncross was a British intelligence officer during World War II, who passed secrets to the Soviet Union...

     (cryptonym: Liszt), SIS officer and Soviet agent
  • Death of Gareth Williams
    Death of Gareth Williams
    Gareth Williams, an employee of GCHQ seconded to the Secret Intelligence Service , was found dead in suspicious circumstances at a Security Services safe house flat in Pimlico, London, during August 2010...

    , seconded to SIS from GCHQ, died in suspicious circumstances

External links

  • UK Intelligence Community On Line from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
    Foreign and Commonwealth Office
    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly called the Foreign Office or the FCO is a British government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom overseas, created in 1968 by merging the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Office.The head of the FCO is the...

    's website
  • Entry for MI6 on the Federation of American Scientists
    Federation of American Scientists
    The Federation of American Scientists is a nonpartisan, 501 organization intent on using science and scientific analysis to attempt make the world more secure. FAS was founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs...

    ' Intelligence Resource Program
  • BBC interview with MI6 spy. BBC's The One show presenter interviews MI6 spy
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